In Con-Com draft charter, NPA attacks may be ground for martial law

Pia Ranada
In Con-Com draft charter, NPA attacks may be ground for martial law
(UPDATED) 'Yes, because it will be classified as terrorism,' says Ferdinand Bocobo, the retired general who proposed the new provision on martial law declaration

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – If the  draft charter of the Consultative Committee (Con-Com)  is adopted, attacks of the New People’s Army (NPA) anywhere in the country may be considered as sufficient ground for a martial law declaration, if they cause “widespread and extraordinary fear and panic” among the people.

Con-Com member Ferdinand Bocobo said this after announcing on Wednesday, May 23, that the group was adding “lawless violence” to the grounds for declaring martial law in its draft constitution to be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Rappler asked if an NPA attack could be considered sufficient basis for declaring military rule.

“Yes, yes, kasi (because) it will be classified as terrorism. Because we consider the New People Army’s as terrorists,” Bocobo said.

Bocobo said the Con-Com defined “lawless violence” as “terrorism” and “violent extremism,” so an NPA attack would fall under the former.

Bocobo later on said that there has to be a series of NPA attacks that cause widespread panic for it to be considered sufficient grounds for declaring martial law.

“For NPA attacks to fall under ‘terrorism’ as ground to declare martial law, these attacks should cause widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among [the] populace,” he said.

Will an anti-government rally be enough grounds as well? Bocobo said during the interview that it could if the rally was organized by terrorists and turned violent, which he defined as involving  incidents of bombing and leading to fatalities.

“But if the rally is connected to a terrorist group, that will qualify. But if it’s just a normal rally, no,” said Bocobo.

If a protester starts punching police, this would not be enough basis as it would be considered a “police matter.”

Why the need?

Bocobo also sought to explain why there is a need to expand the grounds for declaring martial law when President Rodrigo Duterte was able to declare martial law in Mindanao due to the Marawi crisis, an act of terrorism and violent extremism.

Legally, ‘yung lawless violence, hindi papasok ‘yan sa rebellion eh.’Yung rebellion, ito ‘yung calling, bringing out arms against the government. ‘Yung invasion naman technically and legally, it says a foreign country invading the Philippines. Pero ‘yung lawless violence, at present, iba ‘yung concept,” said Bocobo.

(Legally, lawless violence does not include rebellion. Rebellion is bringing out arms against the government. Invasion technically and legally, it says a foreign country invading the Philippines. But lawless violence, at present, it’s a different concept.)

He gave definitions for “terrorism” and “violent extremism.”

Bocobo said terrorism is local and international terrorism where there are “acts that create fear among a sizable portion of our population.”

Violent extremism, meanwhile, is when groups commit violent acts because of their radical beliefs, he said.

In an earlier draft of the martial law provision, the term was “widespread lawless violence” and not just “lawless violence.”

Con-Com member and former justice Antonio Nachura said “widespread” was taken out because “lawless violence does not have to be widespread as a grounds for declaring martial law or suspending the writ of habeas corpus.” –


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at